There is a fascinating story of recent years involving the band Vampire Weekend and a model release. Or rather, the model who didn’t provide her release.

The girl in this photo is Kirsten Anne Kennis, or at least it is Kirsten Anne Kennis as she was in 1983.

In 2009, Kennis’ teenage daughter spotted her mum’s face on the cover of Vampire Weekend’s Contra album. The ex-model, now in her late 50s, was surprised at being the ‘new’ face of the indie-rock band’s album.

The photograph was a Polaroid and Kennis could not remember posing for it. Photographers routinely took these Polaroids of applicants at every day casting calls in New York at the time. The photographer, Tod Brody, sold it to the band. He said that he took it at a casting call for models for a TV commercial and that the model had signed a release for its use by him.

Kennis denied this. She said that even as a young model in her early 20s, she knew about her rights to her image that she refused to sign any releases, even in respect of the Polaroids taken at such events.

Kennis didn’t take kindly to her image being used without her permission. And in 2010, she took Vampire Weekend, their label XL Records and the photographer, Tod Brody to court, claiming US$2M in damages. Kennis relied on the significantly greater protections in this area afforded to US celebrities when compared to Australian celebrities.

The plot thickened when the photographer produced a model release form apparently signed by ‘Kristen Johnson’ dated July 2009, to support his version of events. He had crossed out and rewritten the date. Suspiciously, the form purported to licence the ex-model’s image to Vampire Weekend for a fee of $1.00.

Vampire Weekend and XL Records quickly settled the case with the model for an undisclosed sum. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the photographer turned out to be unreliable.

Conclusion

If you are a photographer, you should be taking steps at the outset to protect your reputation! Ask LegalVision to provide you with a comprehensive release form for your models to sign that will allow you to commercialise their images in the future, and will also release you from liability from mishaps during the shoot.

But for heaven’s sake, don’t create the releases and forge the signatures later. Otherwise, your reputation, like the photographer in this story, will be instantly shot.

If you do want to obtain images from photographers and use them for commercial purposes, make sure the images come from a reputable photographer who has full rights to use them.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.
Catherine Logan

Get a Free Quote Now

If you would like to receive a free fixed-fee quote or get in touch with our team, fill out the form below.

  • We will be in touch shortly with a quote. By submitting this form, you agree to receive emails from LegalVision and can unsubscribe at any time. See our full Privacy Policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Privacy Policy Snapshot

We collect and store information about you. Let us explain why we do this.

What information do you collect?

We collect a range of data about you, including your contact details, legal issues and data on how you use our website.

How do you collect information?

We collect information over the phone, by email and through our website.

What do you do with this information?

We store and use your information to deliver you better legal services. This mostly involves communicating with you, marketing to you and occasionally sharing your information with our partners.

How do I contact you?

You can always see what data you’ve stored with us.

Questions, comments or complaints? Reach out on 1300 544 755 or email us at info@legalvision.com.au

View Privacy Policy